How Do We Talk About Monica Seles?

4Jan

It's clear that from the moment Monica Seles arrived on the tennis stage as a precocious teenager, the tennis world didn't quite know what to do or say about her. She's been constructed as, at varying times: the grunting and giggling wunderkind, an enigmatic superstar, a tragic victim of violence, a worldwide symbol of resilience, and the tour's elder stateswoman. In this episode, we try to make sense of the creation of Monica Seles as a public figure, by combing through the journalism written about her and several books written by her. How did we arrive at the Monica we 'know' today? How do we make sense of her incomprehensible stabbing? Does tennis know how to reckon with this superstar and her place in history? What this isn't: it's not a comprehensive biography, not a litigation of who's The Greatest, nor is it a deep dive into the Seles-Graf rivalry and relationship. This is instead about trying to understand how sports media creates celebrity, how patterns are repeated through generations, and a reminder that your heroes are complicated.

 

:30 Why are we doing this episode?

6:45 The first stage of Monica discourse: prodigy and peculiarity (1988-90)

15:45 Grand Slam debut at 1989 Roland Garros 

20:45 Seles' run of firsts in 1989/1990 and the Bolletieri falling out

30:25 The second phase: dominance and drama (1991-93)

33:20 The '91 Wimbledon withdrawal and reappearance at Mahwah

46:30 Let's talk about the endless grunting conversation, which blew up at 1992 Wimbledon

57:00 The stabbing and the subsequent 27-month hiatus (1993-95)

75:20 Monica's return to the WTA Tour, entering another phase of Monica discourse: embraced and beloved (but often underestimated) champion (1995-present)

83:00 Assessing Monica's post-comeback career: full of contradictions and lots of greatness